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  5. A Texas HIFI couple made $200,000 last year. Their budget for vacations and restaurants keeps shrinking despite 'making more money than ever.'

A Texas HIFI couple made $200,000 last year. Their budget for vacations and restaurants keeps shrinking despite 'making more money than ever.'

Allie Kelly   

A Texas HIFI couple made $200,000 last year. Their budget for vacations and restaurants keeps shrinking despite 'making more money than ever.'
  • Joe, 38, feels financially strained despite a six-figure household income.
  • Joe is a HIFI, a group of Americans who are defined as high income, financially insecure.

Joe doesn't think he lives an extravagant life. Sure, he and his wife enjoy spending their disposable income on concert tickets, takeout, and travel when possible, but they try to live within their means.

When the millennial couple bought a house in Austin a decade ago, they thought they were doing everything right: building their careers in a big city, raising two children, and working toward retirement. They loved Austin's music scene, could afford leisure activities, and saw themselves settling in their home long-term.

Joe tries to be smart about money, but he feels like his bills keep piling up. Daily life is expensive, and those concerts and plane tickets are drifting further out of reach.

"We want to make sure that we're actually enjoying our time in our youth," said Joe, whose identity is known to BI but he asked to use his first name due to fear of professional repercussions. "But we know that we need to be saving more but it feels incredibly daunting to try to do so."

The 38-year-old earned $119,764 last year in his job as a senior product designer, according to documents reviewed by BI. Combined with his wife's accountant salary, he said his household earns over $200,000 — "more money than ever." But with the rising cost of living, Joe is apprehensive about the future.

His experience echoes that of many HIFIs, a group of Americans who are defined as high income, financially insecure. HIFIs are often Gen Zers and millennials, tend to earn six-figure salaries, and feel stressed by their major living expenses. However, the group also has an affinity for luxury spending: fashion, real estate, vacations, and experiences. And many are experiencing an unsustainable lifestyle creep.

People under 40 are accumulating more wealth earlier in life than previous generations, but 48% of Gen Zers and 59% of millennials say they feel behind financially, according to a Credit Karma survey of 1,006 US adults published in December.

Debra Kaplan, a licensed therapist and financial expert, told BI that HIFIs often have a disconnect between how they spend their money and what they can afford.

"What it costs to live day to day is more now, and people are feeling that sense of 'Oh, money may not go as far,"' Kaplan said. "They don't feel as comfortable or financially secure even though their financial situation has not appreciably changed."

Joe said his family isn't living paycheck to paycheck — but they're also not saving.

"We're not taking as many vacations as we used to, we're not going through as many shows as we used to," Joe said. "We still feel like we're just treading water, and we can't get any traction to get to build any wealth."

Joe doesn't feel wealthy, despite a six-figure income

Right before the pandemic, Joe estimates he and his wife made about $150,000 together. While their combined income is now over $50,000 more a year, they "just feel like we're living worse," Joe said.

Joe said his biggest expenses are his mortgage, utilities, and groceries. His two children are now young adults, but they're still enrolled on his insurance and aren't fully financially independent. A few years ago, he finished paying off about $100,000 in student debt, but the payments made it difficult for him to build long-term savings.

Joe understands that America's economy is doing well, but he said he doesn't feel the benefit. With growing expenses, he feels like his family can no longer afford the full amenities of Austin. His family's budget for restaurants and travel keeps shrinking. And, despite his household income, Joe doesn't feel wealthy.

"We're really making educated and important choices for us to feel like we're living a fulfilled happy life," he said. "We're not going into the store and buying up all this stuff to 'keep up with the Joneses' or anything."

Looking forward, Joe is worried about retirement. He doesn't feel like he's saved enough in his 401(k), and he worries his current spending will hurt his future. Joe hopes he can stop working someday, but he doesn't think he will have any extra money to give his children.

"Not being a financial burden to my kids in my old age would be a great accomplishment," he said.

Are you a HIFI? Do you struggle to afford your lifestyle, even with a high income? Are you open to sharing your story? If so, reach out to this reporter at allisonkelly@businessinsider.com.




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